Since we are all stuck at home right now, I'm sharing some pictures of the beautiful and remarkable places I've seen in my travels. Many of these experiences served as research for my novels, including EIGHTY DAYS TO ELSEWHERE, due out this summer.
After virtually visiting Iceland, Orkney, Wales, and the completely unique cities of London, England, and Seoul, Korea, today I'm swinging back to my home continent and taking a peek into the icy waters of Niagara Falls.
Just to change things up a bit for this post, I thought I might talk about a specific visit to the Falls, and what it meant to the book I was writing at the time.
The creation of 'Eighty Days to Elsewhere' has been as serendipitous an experience as any I've had as a writer. Once I'd signed a contract for the book, I immediately knew I'd have to visit as many locations as possible. While the internet is an amazing thing, and you can do a lot with a tool like Google street view, there's nothing like being in the place where your book is unfolding. I hate messing up the details.
In the end, I did my trip around the world in two separate legs -- a North American jaunt that took me from Vancouver through Calgary and Toronto to New York City, and a second trip that involved an entire plantary circumnavigation.
I started the North American leg of this research trip with a first draft completely written, but extremely scanty on specific detail. The principle goal of these journeys was to fill in the sensory blanks -- to ensure the readers could taste and sense and smell all that Romy (my main character) was experiencing. The entire time I was travelling, I was also writing -- on buses and trains and planes and in hotel rooms, layering in detail, trying to find the best ways to make the story SING.
But by the time I reached Toronto, I found myself in trouble. I'd planned for a pivotal scene to unfold at Niagara Falls -- a make-or-break moment for Romy smack in the middle of the Rainbow Bridge (which you can see right here, spanning the Niagara Gorge between Canada and the USA). Unfortunately, in the course of my research, I discovered the loophole I'd planned to use to get her back into the USA was no longer open. And I had no idea how to fix the problem.
I needed to go to the source. A side-trip to Niagara Falls was born.
This was a year ago, in April, and it was still FREEZING. Though technically it was springtime, the air coming up off the gorge felt filled with little shards of ice.
Up close, the water was ice-filled, too -- layered in tiny, tessellated icebergs. Even the water coursing over the American Falls still had to carve intricate paths through the enormous ice blocks at the base.
Desperate to solve my plot dilemma, I stood at the side of the gorge and took in this view. And then I walked to the bridge, paid my dollar fee, and crossed into the US. I spent a couple of hours wandering through the American city of Niagara Falls, found the train station Romy needed to race through, and still nothing. By this time, my frustration was building and my feet were seriously sore.
It wasn't until I walked back across into Canada, lining up behind a couple and their baby who were also crossing on foot, that I happened to glance over the side of the bridge once more. My eye landed on a pair of abandoned zodiacs -- and something clicked into place.
I turned back to look at the Customs exit, but the young family had disappeared. It didn't matter -- the human incarnations may have vanished, but the fictional versions had manifested just when I needed them. I grabbed my laptop and hit the nearest coffee shop -- the very one under whose awning Romy would eventually shed tears of frustration herself. I had my solution -- and a whole new scene to write.
This happened a LOT, I have to say, during the writing of this book. I had an idea -- a great idea, a PERFECT idea -- for the story, only to find that when I got to the location, the logistics wouldn't work, or the details were wrong. Luckily, as a writer, I get a lot of joy from finding solutions that take my story out of the realm of the impossible. Did this particular trip to Niagara Falls do the trick? You'll have to read the story, and tell me! Want to pre-order EIGHTY DAYS TO ELSEWHERE right now? Click here, and scroll to the bottom of the page to find links to online and Indie outlets that are stocking it!
Last week, I launched my inaugural newsletter, and I've been working on next month's edition already. Inside, you'll find a feature interview with Tony Ollivieri, discussing his debut thriller THE AMSTERDAM DECEPTION. There's also lots of book news, discussion and an exclusive chance for subscribers to win copies of Tony's exciting story. You can sign up for the newsletter -- and your chance to win -- below.
Let me close today by wishing you good health and lots of good reading in these strange times. And join me next time, for a look at some of the places around this planet that are compelling enough to draw this claustrophobic deep, deep under the ground.